Everything Must Go (2011)

Written & Directed by Dan Rush

Will Ferrell has been a staple in the comedy world ever since his premiere on “Saturday Night Live”. He has moved on to some extremely successful projects such as “Anchorman”, “Step Brothers”, and “Talladega Nights”. He even just recently replaced Steve Carrell in the NBC sitcom “The Office”. With writer/director Dan Rush’s new film “Everything Must Go”, inspired by a short story by Raymond Carver, Ferrell attempts to blend his signature comedy with gravitas as a downtrodden Arizona man.

Nick Halsey (Ferrell) is a successful salesman. In fact, he is the regional vice president of a company he has worked with for 16 years. He is also married, though we are never greeted by his wife. However, everything comes tumbling down for Nick one day because, while successful, Nick is also an alcoholic. He gets fired from his job and when he returns home, finds that his wife has left him, changed the locks, and put all of his belongings on the front lawn. His wife also freezes their bank account and cancels his cell phone. Then, his former employer comes to collect his company car, leaving Nick to live on his front lawn, which causes quite a stir in the middle class Arizona neighborhood.

“Everything Must Go” is a very sad story, but one that attempts to infuse subtle comedy into the proceedings. Our PBR drinking protagonist is hardly the type of character that is sympathetic. That is, of course, until he visits an old high school friend (Laura Dern), who tells him that he has a good heart, and that that doesn’t change. We also see Nick’s lighter side with his interactions with a new neighbor, the pregnant Samantha (Rebecca Hall), and a young outcast, Kenny (Christopher Jordan Wallace), who spends his days pleading for Nick to teach him both baseball and the art of the salesman.

Everything the film strives for comes across flat. The comedy is very dark and dry and produces a few chuckles at best while the drama seems overdone in its premise and underdone in its execution. Dan Rush tries to play it low key and subtle, but instead he is left with a film that is more boring and mediocre than it is interesting and good.

The cast does a good job with the material they are given. The problem is with the material. Will Ferrell does well in evoking the helpless state of Nick Halsey and Christopher Jordan Wallace, the son of rapper Biggie Smalls, does likewise for the outcast Kenny. Meanwhile Samantha (Rebecca Hall) and Detective Garcia (Michael Peña), who is Nick’s AA sponsor, seem underdeveloped as characters and underused given the actors relative talents. The same can be said for Nick’s friend Delilah (Dern). Her one scene contributes to the unnaturally constructed feel of the entire movie.

“Everything Must Go” is a valiant attempt by writer/director Dan Rush to create a meaningful dramedy about the problems with alcoholism and a host of other issues, but sadly his understated attempt never succeeds in establishing a truly compelling narrative or a viable payoff to conclude this drab tale.

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